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British Transport Police calls on bystanders to report sexual harassment on the railway

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British Transport Police (BTP) is encouraging the public to do their bit in helping us make the railway a hostile environment for sexual harassment, as reports continue to rise.

A new campaign launched today (Monday 4 July) – called ‘Speak Up, Interrupt’ – aims to empower bystanders and witnesses of all forms of inappropriate sexual behaviour on the network to report incidents or safely intervene where they can, while we continue to boost specialist patrols and target hotspot locations.

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Reports of sexual harassment and sexual offences to BTP have risen by 175% since before the pandemic (2019/20 compared to 2021/22). The force say this tells us that more people are aware that this behaviour isn’t acceptable, and that they are becoming more confident in reporting it to police – which is a step in the right direction, however there’s more to be done.

BTP say that they’re now calling on the public to help. Whether that’s by alerting police or taking simple and non-confrontational steps to interrupt or diffuse a situation if you see behaviour such as leering, catcalling, touching, pressing, upskirting, or indecent exposure.

This could involve speaking to police or rail staff; Giving the victim a way out of the situation by offering your seat; Interrupting the situation by striking up an unrelated conversation or standing between the perpetrator and the victim; Supporting the victim by asking them if they are ok; Or, if it is safe to so, speaking calmly to the person causing the issue.

Reports can be made by texting 61016 or via BTP’s new app ‘Railway Guardian’ now available to download on the Apple and Google Play store. The app also contains guides and advice on what information to report and examples of how to be an active bystander. In an emergency, you should always call 999.

BTP Sexual Offences Lead, Detective Superintendent Sarah White, said: “We must shift the focus away from just relying on victims to report sexual harassment to us, because everyone has a part to play in driving out this unacceptable behaviour.

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“We’re not asking people to police the railway, that’s our job. But small actions such as offering someone your seat if you notice them looking uncomfortable, alerting an officer, or reporting an incident to us can make an enormous difference.

“Your reports provide us with crucial information which helps us build a picture of what’s happening on the network so we can identify crime hotspots, deploy patrols to catch offenders, and crucially bring them to justice.

“As always, our officers are out across the network day and night looking out for you. Download our new Railway Guardian app for more information.”

The campaign has been developed in conjunction with rail industry partners, based on research from charities, campaign groups, and bystander behaviour experts.

(Lead image: British Transport Police)

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